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Full text of "Woman as a musician : an art-historical study"

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WOMAN AS A MUSICIAN 



AN ART-HISTORICAL STUDY, 



BY 



FANNY EAYMOND EITTER, 

Translator and Editor of ' Music and Musicians^ Essays and Criticisms by 
Robert Schumann.* 



LONDON: 
WILLIAM REEVES, 185, FLEET STREET, E.G. 

Publisher of Musical Works. 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2013 



http://archive.org/details/womanasmusicianaOOritt 



1^ 30^1 



The accompanying study was written in response to a request that I 
should present a paper on art before the Centennial Congress, in Phila- 
delphia, of the "Association for the Advancement of Woman," which 
request was made to me by Professor Maria Mitchell CPresident of that 
Association) ; a lady who confesses, with rare candour, her own unmusical 
nature, yet, perhaps, while 

Lone as a star, she marks and counts the spheres, 

Their voiceless music in her soul she hears, 

and certainly recognizes the importance of musical art to her sex in 
general. 

The essay was read at that meeting by Mrs. Churchill, and published 
as read by her, in the " Woman's Journal." 

As my subject, " Woman as a Musician," has never been historically 
treated before in this manner (though necessarily condensed, a style 
demanded by a paper intended to be read in public), I have acceded to the 
requests of many friends interested in art, and now publish the essay in 
more accessible form, with a few additions to its original contents. 

I trust that it may serve the purpose for which it was written ; that it 
may suggest the future adoption of musical themes, among the subjects to 
be treated of by the ladies of the Association (this was the first paper on 
music read at their meetings) ; and that it may aid in inducing a more serious 
study of musical art, as a necessary constituent of higher artistic culture 
among American women. 

With this sincere desire, I add another plea to many already existing 
in favour of that refined, poetical, beautiful art, to which, with its kindred 
subjects, I dedicate so much of my life ; and now offer it as an addition to 
the art records of the centennial anniversary of the American republic. 

FANNY RAYMOND RITTER. 



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WOMAN AS A MUSICIAN, 



During the long and tumultuous period that followed the decline of 
the Roman Empire, two spirits, the inward and the outward spirits of 
humanity, seemed, throughout Europe, to struggle for mastery ; and in 
that struggle — itself a manifestation of the intense, newly awakened 
vitality of the Middle Ages — these spirits, approaching each other more 
nearly, perceived that they had many traits in common, that their com- 
bat was only a misunderstanding, that they were brothers ; and, finally, 
embracing, they became united. 

We all know that Art, while the highest possible result to which 
human imagination, emotion, and intellect can attain, is also, in its vari- 
ous forms, an exalted and idealized reflection of every passing epoch 
of human progress ; thus the sensuous, serene, and in one sense nobly 
natural life of the Greeks, found its truthful illustration in the master- 
pieces of antique sculpture and architecture ; thus the art of painting 
reached, during the picturesque epochs of the Middle Ages and the 
renaissance, to an astonishing height of excellence; but, to express in all 
its depth, richness, fullness, torture and ecstasy, this lately awakened, 
inward force, this spiritual result of the union of the old naturalistic 
heathenism and the young supernatural faith, — this new life, whose 
first heart-beat thrilled the world at that supreme moment, when, beside 
the haunted shores, and over the classic waters of the -^gean Sea, a 
voice was heard to murmur, " Great Pan is dead ! " — to embody this, 
another art was needed ; then, from the bosom of Christianity, arose the 
modern art of Music. 

Ample evidence remains to us of the tone-system of the Greeks, 



2 WOMAN AS A MUSICIAN. 

and several authentic fragments of their music exist ; from all this we 
find that their instrumental music never advanced beyond the merest 
rudiments, and that their singing was only a heightening of the effect 
of their beautiful language, by means of rhythmical cadences, rhetorical 
pauses, and varied intonation. On account of the extreme respect and 
admiration which the Greek poets and philosophers express for music, 
many modern writers, insufficiently acquainted with the subject, have 
supposed that Greek music must have reached a very high state of per- 
fection ; I regard such expressions of admiration only as proofs of the 
intellectual discernment of those gifted men, who were able to appreciate 
the high value, and still higher possibilities of music, even in its rough 
root, as it existed among them. What would not these poets and philo- 
sophers have written of music, could they have known it as it now is 1 
As it was, however, Plato said, — that no man could be virtuous, whose 
life is not in harmony with music ; Pythagoras thought that music stood 
so far above the senses, that only a lofty intellect was able to judge of 
it ; Chiron said that mvisic should be placed above morals or medicine, 
as an element of culture ; Aristoxenes advised that music should always 
be introduced at feasts, because its inherent symmetry and order re- 
strained mind and body from excess ; Archytas, Plutarch, and others 
agreed that the power of music extends to every part of nature, that it 
regulates all motion, and even rules the course of the spheres. 

And yet in spite of the great encomiums of great men, the music 
of those days gave scarcely even an idea of the sublimity to which it 
has arrived in our days. Music, as we understand it, scarcely had an 
existence prior to the establishment of Christianity ; its feeble germ, 
nursed in the rocks and caves where the early Christians found refuge, 
fanned by the sighs, and watered by the tears of the persecuted, 
developed into existence as the Ambrosian and Gregorian chants, then 
spread, through storm and transition, into the life of the people, as the 
trou):>adour, minstrel, war, folk-song, and dance music, until it became, 
under its present splendid and varied forms of artistic song, and instru- 
mental composition, what it now is, — the reigning art of to-day, the 
most consummate flower of modern civilization, intellectual culture, and 
artistic refinement. 

Music, though in one sense a mathematical abstraction, and based 
on exact science, like other arts, is wholly original and self-existent. It 
is not reproductive and imitative as are the plastic arts to a certain 
extent ; its object is higher than that of mere reflection ; it aims at ex- 
pressing those emotions and aspirations, which are awakened in thinking 



WOMAN AS A MUSICIAN. 6 

and feeling humanity by the passions and events of life and time, or by 
the contemplation and comprehension of the order, proportion, unity, 
variety, power, terror, beauty, symmetry, profundity and immensity of 
the universe. It is the most transcendental of all arts, for it is a purely 
metaphysical outward manifestation of the inward soul ; it is the most 
complex of all arts, for at once it is vague, definite, and infinitely 
precise ; it is the most ideal of all arts, for it is the beautiful result of 
unshaken faith in progress towards perfection, and is itself almost a 
religion, in its purity and sublimity. In the evanescent, intangible 
form of music, from small^ materials yet vast possibilities, the human 
heart and mind have gradually evoked a language, a science, an art, 
compared with whose simple means and immense results, the miraculous 
creations of the fabulous magicians of antiquity would appear cold, pale, 
aimless and meaningless. 

I shall now endeavour to sketch the share of woman — which art 
history has until now neglected to point out, fully and separately — in 
this gradual, historical development of music to the point of pre-eminence 
where we find it in our own day. Woman's voice certainly united in 
the chants and hymns that echoed through the caves and deserts to 
which the early Christians fled in order to celebrate their worship ; 
though afterwards, in the 1 6th century, she was cast out as an official 
musician from the j'^^'osperous church, we know that in the early, per- 
secuted church, she bore her part as singer as well as martyr ; whether 
she had any share in the composition of those early chants in which she 
practically united, is doubtful, and will forever remain unknown. In 
the middle ages, woman was the universal martyr; forgotten by others, she 
forgot herself. It was not until the end of the 14th century, that 
women began to be anything more than the toys of the higher, the 
beasts of burden among the lower classes. That mediseval epoch must 
have been an epoch of darkness, ignorance, oppression and despair for 
women of low station — the great majority of women, in short, who, find- 
ing themselves almost wholly unprotected by law or opinion, fled for 
safety to the pretended practice of magic. Discovering that the super- 
stitious fears of men would invest them with a sort of protection, they 
afiected to become witches, though they knew that torture and death 
awaited them if they were betrayed. The early church even condemned 
those women to the death of the sorceress, who dared "to cure other 
sick than those of theii' own families, unless they had previously studied 
medicine." And to what opprobrium would they not have been subjected 
then, had those anxious mothers, wives, and sisters, then dared to enter 



4 WOMAN AS A MUSICIAN. 

a school of medicine for the purpose of studying the healing art ! Yet, 
when the famous doctor Paracelsus burned the tomes of Arabic, Greek, 
and Jewish medicine, he declared that he had not learned anything of 
physic worth retaining, except from the sorceresses, whose medicines were 
principally vegetable. The few historical clues we possess, lead us most 
unwillingly to the conclusion that the first timid steps of woman within 
the portals of this new art, were rather trammelled, than encouraged 
and assisted ; and if any trace of woman as a musician remains from the 
era of mediaeval sorcery, witch -burning, and the slow overcoming of 
popular superstition by means of philosophy and natural science, it is to 
be found in the folk-songs, those beautiful memorials of individual and 
national life, composed and written by anonymous singers and poets 
among the people. It is almost impossible to believe that women 
traversed that long period of persecution, struggle, despair, hope, and 
aspiration, without giving voice to their emotions ; and as national and 
peasant folk-songs are traditionally said to have been nearly always 
composed by the persons who first sang them, and as women have 
always been their most zealous performers, it is only fair to suppose 
that they have also had something to do with their composition as well 
as with their poetry. It would be unnatural to think that the beautiful 
lullabies and cradle songs, of which hundreds exist, in difierent lan- 
guages and nationalities, were composed by martial barons, rough serving- 
men, or rougher peasants, and not by their wives or daughters ; we know 
that in Beam, in Ireland, in the Basque provinces, and elsewhere, 
women have always been preferred as the vocal eulogists of the departed, 
in funeral songs ; nor could the sibyllic utterances of Druid priestesses, 
the terrible incantations and magic songs of the early sorceresses, have 
been invented by others than themselves. And the melancholy life of 
the serf, watching her flocks on the green hills, or gathering wood for 
her hearth amid the implacable brambles, — and the lonely lady of the 
castle, spinning or embroideriaig her cunning tapestries while she waited, 
sometimes for years, the return of her father, husband, brother, lover, — 
and then the anxious women of the fisher people, — did they indeed 
endure their sorrows voicelessly 1—1 cannot believe it ; I have no doubt 
but that many of those simple, touching, heart-breakiiig melodies and 
poems were of women's creation. This question is a novel one ; but, 
since the comparatively recent study of philology has been the source of 
many unexpected revelations, further study of the musical branch of 
historical investigation will throw light on many points that have 
hitherto remained obscure. 



WOMAN AS A MUSICIAN. 

But, though woman's share in the authorship of these folk-songs is 
uncertain, she has had considerable part in theii' compilation from the 
mouths of the people, who, unable to read or write, have handed them 
down, viva voce, through centuries. Fernan Caballero (recently de- 
ceased) has collected a number of Spanish popular songs f the Countess 
of Dujfferui and Miss Brooke have translated many Irish folk-songs 
from the original Celtic into English ; the Countess de la Villemarque 
was of the greatest assistance to her son in making his famous collection 
of Breton songs ; Coussemaker wrote down the larger part of his in- 
teresting Flemish songs from the lips of the poor lace makers of Holland ; 
Madame George Sand says that she has seen Chopin and Madame 
Yiardot Garcia spending hours in noting doTVTi the wild melodies sung 
by the peasant women of the French provinces; Bivares, in his collection 
of Bearnais folk-songs, gives a funeral song improvised by Marie, one 
of the most famous recent songstresses of the valley of Aspe in Beam, 
Marie's striking, healthy beauty, which, as well as her voice, she pre- 
served to a great age, her lively imagination, her lofty character, and 
the high opinion she entertained of the nobility of her profession, ren- 
dered her a lovely modern embodiment of the antique Pythoness. When 
Goethe's fine translation of a Servian folk-song, '' The complaint of the 
noble wife of Hassan Aga," drew the attention of poetical and musical 
Europe to the wonderful beauty of Servian folk-songs, a lady was among 
the first of those who attempted to preserve these monuments of national 
character, tradition and emotion, from the invading or efiacing influ- 
ences of change or oblivion, by means of the printing press. Fraiilein 
von Jakob, afterwards the wife of an American professor, collected and 
published a large number of Servian folk-songs, which she translated 
into German from the original. In her compilation, as well as in those 
made by subsequent Slavonic, Italian and German litterateurs, it is 
impossible not to be struck by the indescribable poetic loveliness of the 
Ser\dan " Women's Songs," bearing, as these do, the stamp of Hindoo 
and Greek antiquity, as well as after invasion, conquest, emigration, 
and national change. And in stad}dng the folk-songs of the Arabiams — 
vrhich, being yet unversed in Arabic, I only know by means of Spanish, 
Italian, German or French translations, scattered, few and far between, 
through scarce and rare old collections of national music now in my 
possession, — I have been struck by the poetic delicacy of feeling in 
regard to women, which these fragments of the antique glory of a people 
who held poetic tournaments at Mecca and elsew^here, before the 5tli 
century, disphi}'; but which, perhaps, need not so much surprise us when 



6 WOMAN AS A MUSICIAN. 

we remember that an Ai'abian queen, Balkis, of Saba, or Slieba, pos- 
sessed knowledge enough to venture on visiting king Solomon, son of 
the musical king David, for the purjDose of proving the genuineness 
of his learning " by hard questions," and that the reputation of that 
literary and artistic queen impelled the royal amateur to make splendid 
and tasteful demonstrations for her reception and in her honor. Was 
queen Balkis a feminine, unique phenomenon, or was she only one 
of a class of cultivated women among the Arabian aristocracy of that 
day? 

It is well known that the subtle vein of feeling in regard to women, 
which permeates Celtic and Arabic folk-song, was in part appropriated 
by the troubadours during the epoch of the crusades. Without pursu- 
ing this part of my subject further at present (which I have already 
treated in a series of essays " On the music and poetry of the trouba- 
dours," originally published in the New York Weekly Review, and 
shortly to appear in collected form), I must observe the remarkable fact 
that a number of ladies of rank, wives, sisters, or daughters of trouba- 
dours, generally, became trouveresses, as they were called. Marie de 
France, and Clara d'Anduse, were among the mo.st famous of these. 
In spite of the narrow educational resources then open to ladies even 
of the highest rank, and the restricted circle of their lives, we find, in 
the poetry of the trouveresses, as much apparent truthfulness and im- 
passioned depth of feeling as in that of the troubadours, though betraying 
more negligence of treatment ; while their melodies evince a greater 
want of finish and clearness of form than do those of the troubadours. 
Among the minstrels, followers of the troubadours, a few songstresses, 
generally the wives or daughters of minstrels, were trained to sing their 
male companions' songs by rote. From some of the old minstrel ballads 
it is possible to form an idea of the characters of these women ; in a song 
by Colin Muset, a minstrel who flourished in the 13th century, he 
mentions his settled home, cook, groom, valet, etc., and represents his 
wife and daughter as industriously engaged in spinning, on his return 
from one of his tours ; but the language with which they greet him, 
and which he doubtless copied from life, without reflection, betrays un- 
educated minds, and commonplace habits of thought and action. 

By a singular contradiction, thoug'i the church forbade women, 
throughout mediaeval times, and by actual prohibition in the 16th 
century, to take any active musical j)art in its services, — as I have 
already mentioned, — a feminine saint was adopted as patroness of music, 
and especially of church music. The life of Saint Cecilia, though nar- 



WOMAN AS A MUSICIAN. i 

rated in the Golden Legend, is, however, partly mythical. We know 
that the lady so familiar to all lovers of art and poetry as Saint Cecilia, 
really existed and died a martyr ; but it is uncertain whether Rome or 
Sicily was the scene of her death, and the date of that event varies in 
the narrations of various authorities. In regard to her musical attain- 
ments, we only know with any certainty, that she was in the habit of 
sv/eetly singing pious songs. If we search still further back in what 
I may term the primeval epoch of musical art, we find the Greek poetess 
Sappho to have been credited as the inventress of the so-called mixoly- 
dian mode in music, and also of a (then) new musical instrument, the 
pectis or magadis. And Miriam, the prophetess, who went out dancing 
and singing, the timbrel in her hand, who can say that her song of 
triumph was vot her own composition] 

But, to advance to the early days of modern music, — banished from 
active musical participation in the church service, woman's practical 
career as a public artiste only began with the invention of the opera, 
about A.D. 1600. It was not until her superiority as an actress and 
singer had been undeniably and triumphantly established on the stage, 
that she reconquered her musical share in the religious service. And 
what great distinction in such a position, woman has won for herself 
during the past 200 years ! Volumes have been written on those opera 
singers, many of whose very names, as they echo through the pages of 
history, are in themselves romance and poetry, recalling as they do, the 
gifts, charms, accomplishments, charities, virtues, errors, adventures, and 
caprices of their possessors. 

I shall only allude to a very few of these ladies ; and one of the 
first mentioned in history we find to have been Yittoria Archilei, a 
highly accomplished musician at the court of Florence in 1600, and who 
took part in the first Italian opera that was composed and represented 
in public. Faustina Bordoni, born in 1700, wife of the famous com- 
jDOser Hasse, was one of the greatest artists that ever lived ; medals were 
struck in her name, and societies established in her honour. Her rival, 
Regina Mingotti, whose portrait now stands in the Dresden Gallery, 
delighted the historian, Dr. Burney, by her freshness of voice at a very 
advanced old age, as well as by her power of conversing with equal 
elegance in five languages. Madame Mara, the favourite singer of 
Frederick the Great and of Marie Antoinette, enchanted Europe for 
nearly fifty years; at the age of seventy she still sang in public, 
though the power of her voice had vastly declined ; some years after- 
wards, the great poet Goethe wrote a poem in honor of her birthday. 



8 WOMAN AS A MUSICIAN. 

Caterina Gabrielli, the pupil of Metastasio, excited her audiences to 
alternate frenzies of admiration and anger, with her voice, beauty, 
caprices and adventures. When Catharine of Russia complained to the 
singer that her emoluments were far higher than those of the Field 
Marshals of the Empire, Madame Gabrielli replied, "Then your Majesty 
must try to make the Field Marshals sing ! " Madame Catalani, born 
in 1779, possessed a trumpet-like power of voice; in London she re- 
ceived twelve hundred dollars for singing the solo in " God s ive the 
King," and twelve thousand dollars for assisting at one musical festival. 
Mrs. Billington, a blooming Englishwoman, far removed in physical and 
mental characteristics from the popularly received idea of a sorceress, 
was accused by the superstitious Neapolitans of causing the eruption of 
Mount Vesuvius in 1794, by her wonderful vocal powers, and the ex- 
citement they produced in Naples. M. Thiers has translated the auto- 
biography of Mrs. Billington into the French lang-uage. Another gifted 
and beautiful singer, Agnes Schebest, published an interesting auto- 
biography (" Aus dem Leben einer Kiinstlerin'^), about twenty years ago. 
Mrs. Sheridan, too (the wife of the dramatist), whose personal beauty 
and thrilling voice have been celebrated by poets and painters, was also 
remarkable for her poetic talent. Of Miss Stephens, the ballad singer, 
it was said that her power over the hearts of others arose from the 
depth of her own feeling, and the warmth and sensitiveness with which 
this informed her charming voice. Miss Stephens afterwards married 
the Earl of Essex. 

I might long continue to enumerate such instances of genius and 
success in public songstresses ; but any musical student can search for 
them in the standard Italian, French, German, and English dictionaries 
and biographies of musical art. 

And who cannot recall, from the descriptions of older persons, or 
from memory, the accomplishments of more recent artists % Who has not 
heard, or heard of, the rich-voiced Mrs. Wood, the fascinating Malibran, 
the impassioned Madame Devrient — of whom it has been said that " she 
never sang an inferior song in public during her whole life," — the charm- 
ing Sontag and Patti, the intellectual Madame Lind, the exquisite 
Madame Nilsson? 

Madame George Saiid, in her * art-novel " Consuelo," has drawn, 
with that poetic charm and pursuasive force of style that belong to her 
supremely, the ideal character of a pure and noble artist woman, too 
deeply imbued by lofty enthusiam for her fine vocation, to barter its 
true principles for transitory success, social flattery, or pecuniary ad- 
* May be obtained of th Publisher, post free, 2s. 4cl. 



WOMAN AS A MUSICIAN. 9 

vantage. This character has been in some measure realized in the 
persons of two ladies yet living, Madame Viardot-Garcia, the singer, 
sister of Malibran ; and Madame Clara Schumann, the pianist, and widow 
of the composer Schumann. 

That many of the famous songstresses of past days were capable 
of interpreting the works of composers in an almost independently 
creative manner, the scores of old operas prove. In many of these the 
melody is reduced to a mere thread, in order to give the songstress per- 
fect liberty in varying the theme according to the passion and action 
of the poetry she was to interpret. But it is impossible for the most 
ardent disciple of woman's progress to point to such a galaxy of cele- 
brities among female composers, as may be placed, without losing their 
brilliancy, beside the names that add lustre to womanhood in other 
branches of art, and in literature. In musical composition we cannot 
boast stars of such distinction as Mrs. Browning, Heloise, Mrs. Lewes, 
Mrs. Siddons, Mdme. Sand, Kosa Bonheur, Aspasia, Miss Cushman, 
Mdme. de Stael, Miss Bronte, Dora d'Istria, Miss Thompson, the nun 
Roswitha, Fernan Caballero, and all the rest. The list of feminine 
composers is a brief one, and most of its members are now living. There 
was the princess Amalia, of Prussia, sister of Frederick the Great, who 
composed operas and cantatas ; Leopoldine Blahetka (daughter of a pro- 
fessor of mathematics in Vienna), who published more than 70 pianoforte 
pieces and songs, some of which were greatly admired by Beethoven ; 
Josephine Lang, the friend of Mendelssohn, who composed a number of 
charming songs ; Madame Farrenc, whose inspiration and science attained 
masculine proportions ; Madame Fanny Hensel, sister of Mendelssohn ; 
Louise Puget, whose vocal romances lately enjoyed an enormous popu- 
larity in France, and won a large fortune for their composer ; Mdme. 
Schumann and Mdme. Garcia, who have composed some fine works, 
though few ; Madame Dolby in England ; Virginia Gabriel, the balladist ; 
Elise Polko, who, carefully educated as a singer, lost her voice prema- 
turely, then wrote for many years a number of novelettes, and now 
appears before the world as a song composer ; and a few other ladies. 

But women have only lately realized the depth and strength of the 
science of music, and what long years of severe mental discipline and 
scientific training are necessary in order to master the art of composition. 
This is not much to the dishonour of their courage and patience, indeed, 
for a comparatively small number of musical students among the other 
sex in America are willing to devote themselves to such self-sacrificing 
study ; too many who do commence it become discouraged when they 



10 WOMAN AS A MUSICIAN. 

begin to understand the amount of labor required, and the thorough 
training necessary to insure perfect development to their talent for com- 
position, and lasting fame to its results. Mathematics, acoustics, j^sy- 
chology, languages, as well as general literary acquirements, the practice 
and technicalities of several instruments, and the science of music, must 
all be mastered by the aspirant in composition, and gradually, through 
the application and assimilation of long years of study, become the 
" second nature " of his mind. It may be some encouragement to the 
sincere student to know that the grandest original idea of a Handel or 
a Mozart, demanded as perfect working out, as fine polishing, as the 
smallest fancy that ever issued from the brain of a ballad writer. And 
why should not women of sufficient intellectual and especial ability to 
warrant the possibility of their obtaining honourable distinction, make 
an effort, and, discarding the absurd idea that composition is an affair 
of instinct, study to compose for immortality also 1 There is surely a 
feminine side of composition, as of every other art. And I would sug- 
gest the adoj)tion of the science of composition as an elective, if not 
obligatory, branch of the higher course of study in ladies' colleges. From 
actual personal experience, I do not hesitate to pronounce it equal — 
merely as a mental discipline — to mathematics, while it enriches the 
mind to a far higher degree, and is far more likely to prove of practical 
benefit to women in after life, than the study of the other science. 

The possible practical advantages of the conscientious study of other 
branches of music are well understood ; talent, not sex, commands the 
highest prices in this art ; the thorough, patient teacher is certain to earn 
a respectable livelihood ; the fee of the first-class teacher is equal to that 
of the first-class physician ; the salaries of great artists are equal to those 
of great ministers of state ; the social position of the musician, even when 
of very low origin, rises in proportion to his or her talent, so that a 
Wagner, a Nilsson, a Schumann, etc., is received as an equal, possessing 
a God-given patent of nobility, in court circles to which mere wealth 
could never hope to attain ; happily far from the days when a Haydn, 
a Mozart, were forced to solicit patronage, and even from those, more 
recent, in which a Baroness Dudevant begged her daughter-in-law to 
adopt a nom de plume, if she must dabble in literature, we see kings 
and emperors rivalling each other, as once in troubadour days, for that 
poetic fame with which a great artist is able to crown the memory of 
his friends ; in a few words, — mind is rapidly becoming the great ac- 
knowledged motive power, and its manifestation, in the exquisite form of 
art, is beginning to be appiejiated as it should be. Therefore, mimic pays. 



WOMAN AS A MUSICIAN. 11 

And so our lady teachers and concert pianists are legion (and the 
names of the best among the latter so familiar to cultivated peojile, that 
I do not need to recall them), and yet the supply is not more than 
equal to the demand. More attention should be paid by women to the 
study of other instruments ; the elegant, poetic, but very difficult harp, 
the soul-thrilling violin, even the— in a musical sense — picturesque guitar, 
are unjustly neglected, though several professional violinists among 
women now compete for the palm of pre-eminence in Europe ; still, lady 
violinists may be counted by tens, where lady pianists number hundreds ; 
and who that has heard the sisters Milanollo, and Madame Neruda 
there, or Camilla Urso in America, will deny that a woman's violin- 
playing possesses a tender, delicate, sympathetic charm, as pleasing in 
its way as the more varied and powerful stroke of a man % The study 
of singing ought to become far more general than it is in all schools ; I 
do not mean the singing by rote of silly milk-and-water chorusses, or the 
singing, also by rote, of shallow ballads and operatic airs ; but a slow 
and gradual mastery of the vocal art, from early childhood, and from its 
elements upwards. For though, to become a fine singer, a woman 
should possess more than average mental ability, patience and industry, 
a healthy physique, personal attractions, and a powerful voice ; though 
very few, indeed, may hope to obtain universal contemporary fame, and 
subsequent historical recognition as great songstresses ; though the con- 
cert singer's career does not yet offer sufficient pecuniary inducements, 
in America, to ladies who object to appear on the operatic stage ; yet 
every woman possessed of a tolerable voice and ear, and unhindered by 
actual physical infirmity, should devote some portion of her time to the 
practice of singing, if only for health's sake. Singing, wliich is regulated 
by respiration, is the most important element of the gymnastic science • 
it is an aid to circulation ; it heightens the spirits, adds grace and activity 
to the movements, and animation to the face. But the physical side of 
singing, like that of all arts, is only one of its sides ; it does not merely 
improve the physical health of the singer, — when i)ursued under rea- 
sonable conditions, and the advice of an experienced musician — but it 
also exercises a positive moral force upon her hearers. The voice is an 
instrument which the singer carries with her ; and as goodness, beauty, 
and happiness are almost the sole objects of unperverted artistic expres- 
sion, and as even grief and terror themselves are ennobled when illus- 
trated by art, the singer, merely by the action of communicating elevated 
emotion to her hearers by means of her voice, becomes, for the time; 



12 WOMAN AS A MUSICIAN. 

a moral agent. It would be needless for me to dilate on the beneficial 
and enlivening effects of music at home and in society, or woman's in- 
terest in encouraging it ; this is almost too well understood. 

But, for the woman of refined musical taste and cultivation, who has 
no occasion to resort to music as a profession, there yet remains a role 
of no common influence ; I mean that of the amateur. In every art 
there are three classes of persons interested ; the creator, — poet, com- 
poser, painter, etc. ; the reproducer, — artist-vii-tuoso, executant, etc. ; 
and the amateur or art-lover. The creator, with the aid of that gift 
which we call " inspiration " by the force of genius, enthusiasm, and 
industry, enriches the world with new art-creations, greater or less of 
their kind ; the reproducer, of every rank from a Kean, a Pasta, a Hans 
von BUlow, down to the humblest country organist, attains a degree 
of perfection according to his or her industrial capacity and power of 
identification with the vision, which it is his task to embody, of the 
creator ; and the amateur ranks in value according to the good he is 
able to accomplish, not i7i, but /o7' art and artists. Occasionally we 
find the producer and the reproducer combined, — as in the cases of Bach, 
Mozart, Mendelssohn, without apparent injury to either faculty ; but we 
cannot hope to find creator and performer distinct or combined, to any 
significant extent, iu the amateur. For, as Hamerton says, the result 
of the artist's daily labor is that of many thousand consecutive previous 
days of study, experience, and reflection ; while the result of ths labor 
of the most enthusiastic amateur can only be drawn from unfinished 
training, and the experimental practice of a few occasional days. An 
abyss in degree, therefore, must always remain between the value of 
the works, critical opinions, and teachings of the artist, and those of the 
amateur; yet the amateur is as necessary to the artist as the artist 
to the amateur. The genuine amateur, with that inborn "hunger 
of the soul " for beauty and science, which is native to every noble 
mind, wishes to possess artistic productions, and to enjoy that refined, 
ideal influence, with which the society of the true artist delights those 
among whom he lives ; on the other hand, the genuine artist is not only 
sustained in his elevated sphere, by the pecuniary appreciation shown 
by the general public for liis books, music, paintings, sculpture, but 
ho is incited to redoubled efforts by the admiration, encouragement, 
sympathy, of his particular amateur friends. We always find that where 
largely appreciative amateur taste exists, it is accompanied by great 
artistic productivity. In this sense, the amateur is the very left hand 
of the artist. Such was Lorenzo the Magnificent ; the Duke of Chandos 



WOMAN AS A MUSICIAN. 13 

to Ilandel ; the lato Prince Albert of England ; such is Louis of Bavaria 
to Wagner. Such great amateur power is rarely found ; but even yood- 
will works wonders. Taste for art doey not constitute an amateur ; every 
one has a taste for art, of course, just as all women love flowers. But 
the genuine, unpretending amateur, the assistant, the befriender of artists, 
is an indispensable adjunct to all serious art development. 

This role is, from its sensitive, sympathetic nature, especially fitted 
to a cultivated woman. If early trained to such technical knowledge 
of one or more arts as may render her judgment intelligent, if reverential 
towards the meaning, and enthusiastic for the beauty of art, if able to 
communicate her impression to others, she is the best of mediators be- 
tween artists and the public. If we search the history of music, we find 
many w^omen who have themselves become illustrious as amateurs, from 
the beneficent influence they have exerted on the lives of fiimous artists. 
But for Marie Antoinette's faithful support of her old master, Gluck, his 
wonderful operas, " Alceste," and liis two " Iphigenias," might never 
have been brought out in Paris : Madame Von Breuning was almost an 
intellectual mother to Beethoven, in her kindness for, and care of him ; 
Mdlle. Bosellis' friendship consoled Haydn in his severe trials ; Mozart's 
wife, Constance, whose name he gave to the heroine of his opera, " The 
elopement from the Seraglio," was also liis best friend ; between Men- 
delssohn and his sister, the closest intellectual friendship existed ; 
Madame Voigt was the helpful friend of Schumann and other composers ; 
the beautiful voice of the Countess Delphine Potocka, the constant friend 
and pupil of Chopin, soothed the sufierings of his dying hour ; and many 
more instances might be cited of woman's inspii'ing kindness and help- 
fulness to composers and performers, though they might not exceed in 
interest the charming memories of Goethe in liis Weimar circle, incited 
to fresh efibrts by the society of such women as the duchess Amalia, 
Madame von Stein, Bettina von Arnim, and the lovely singer Corona 
Schroeter ; or the exalted friendship of Vittoria Colonna and Michael 
Angelo ; and many other well known instances among poets and 
painters. Not all ladies, however, are fortunate enough to boast a 
Gluck, a Ilandel, a Beethoven, a Michael Angelo, a Tasso, among her 
everyday friends j not all women possess the wealth and power of a 
Princess Belgioioso or a Baroness E-othschild ; but every American lady 
who possesses the indispensable kindness of heart, refinement, generosity 
and culture, as well as influence, — the wives of men of intellectual power, 
inherited wealth, or great commercial prominence, more especially — can 
accomplish a great deal in her own small circle. 



14 WOMAN AS A MUSICIAN. 

Ladies can do this in many ways ; by reasonably persistent self- 
culture ; by aiding in the formation of libraries of musical literature, of 
collections of rare musical instruments, and of private societies for the 
home practice of music ; by condemning all that is im worthy of, and 
extraneous to art ; by discountenancing the insinuating charlatanism of 
impudent adventurers, or vulgar speculators, and by seconding the 
claims to social and j^ublic distinction of genuine artists ; by dis- 
suading aspirants of insufficient talent, from the profession of art, which, 
rightly pursued, is a secular ministry, but which, to be really successful 
as such, demands remarkable qualities in its high-priests ; by sustaining 
the efforts of gifted women-artists, compelled by sacred duty or sublime 
adversity, to make a public display of their talents ; by lending their 
influence to, and bestowing pecuniary aid on, every worthy artistic 
enterprise. These grateful offices fall most naturally into the hands of 
the women of America, since from the very nature of life here, the time 
of men of influence is almost wholly occupied with the claims of business 
or politics ; few among them study music at all in their youth, and how 
many who do, are able, on leaving college and entering the actual school 
of life, to prosecute musical practice and studies, and to carry them to 
any practical result, amid the conflicting claims of some profession, of 
commerce, or statesmanship 1 

With lady amateurs, then, will chiefly rest the happy task of pre- 
paring, by a beneficent use of such abilities as they may possess, the soil 
which must foster the young germs of future American art, and of 
hastening the day of its appearance, though this may be long in coming ; 
for history teaches us that the formation of so-called national " schools " 
of any art, acknowledged as such by other nations, and the world at 
large, and not only by friends at home, must be the work of long cen- 
turies rather than of years. 

One of the finest recommendations of music to our sex, as an art 
worthy of universal cultivation, is, that it not only penetrates to the 
mind of the hearer, but to the heart also, thus widening and enlivening 
the faculties, and rendering them better prepared, by sympathy, to 
receive humane and elevated impressions. For what is all culture, even 
the highest, save a means to an end ? And what is that end, if not the 
vivifying and humanizing of the heart, even more than the purifying and 
strengthening of the intellect ? Music possesses a lofty ethical signifi- 
cance ; the very heart of humanity beats in its rhythm ; and heart 
speaks to heart far more completely and efficaciously than brain to brain. 
Music too, bases itself on the social sentiment of mankind ; it is the 



WOMAN AS A MUSICIAN, 



annihilator of egotism, the most complete expositor of the life of man- 
kind in unison, the art whose high mission it is to express the noblest, 
warmest, most generous of human feelings, religion, love, and patriotism ; 
the art of order, unity, harmony ; the art that is destined to become, in 
the far-distant, slowly advancing era of general civilisation, equality, and 
brotherhood, the universal language of humanity. 



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